Do Trail Runners Walk? | Hikers University

As the name implies, many beginners of trail running assume that it just involves running and question, Do Trail Runners Walk?

Going on a trail run that involves continuous running may seem unachievable, and it is enough to stop those who have recently developed an interest in attempting this exercise.

Walking is a critical element in trail running. Almost every trail runner in the world walks during their trail runs, whether seasoned trail runners or beginners new to the activity. Walking on a trail run will help you save energy, navigate rugged terrain, and enjoy other benefits.

So, do you want to know if trail runners walk? I've compiled all of the relevant facts, such as what trail running is, why trail runners walk, and tips on how you should walk on your trail run to get the most out of it.

I am a seasoned trail runner, and from my years of experience, I have learned that walking is a vital part of trail running. Let's dive into a detailed guide for beginners on whether trail runners walk.

Table of contents


What Is Trail Running?

Trail running is a sport involving walking and running on rugged, elevated terrain. You can perform this sport on steep hills, rocky forest paths, dirt trails, etc. Anyone can run trails, and various routes are available across the globe with differing degrees of difficulty.

For example, an experienced trail runner could be able to run on mountains or other highly elevated terrains. In contrast, beginners or individuals with several health issues would prefer a trail that is easier to navigate, such as a moderately hilly location.

Why Do Trail Runners Walk?

Navigate rough paths

While it is easier to run on smooth paths, most trail runs involve rocky and rugged paths where one must stop and walk cautiously to prevent falling and risking injury. Therefore, it is almost impossible to only run during this activity.

Save energy

Most trail runs require you to navigate through a lengthy steep terrain. Running up a hill rapidly drains energy, so trail runners must slow down and frequently walk throughout their trail runs. This also helps to reduce the chances of exhaustion and injuries caused by overworking the body.

Appreciate your surroundings

One of the main reasons many people prefer trail running is because it allows them to appreciate nature and the scenic vistas around them. Therefore, if you race up a route, it defeats the whole reason behind this sport.

Many individuals go on trail runs because being in nature helps them keep their mental health in check and alleviates stress. Hence, it is important to stop during your runs to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. I recommend looking for routes around town that are known to provide spectacular views of nature.

Meet new people

Trail running is an excellent opportunity to socialize and meet new people. If you run on popular trails in your area, you will have the chance to meet and converse with other trail runners. This can be beneficial to your mental health and help people who may be introverts to get out there and make new friends.

How Is Walking On A Trail Different Than Casual Walking?

It is typical for beginners to become puzzled when they hear they are allowed to walk on trail runs. The first thing that may come to their minds is how walking on trails differs from casual walking. There are significant differences between trail walking and casual walking.

When you stroll around the house or at a mall, your muscles exert minimal effort and burn a small amount of energy. However, trails force you to walk quickly and maneuver over rugged terrain, which puts more strain on your body's muscles.

 The main goal of trails is to work out the muscles and burn calories. Therefore, while you are on your trails, walking at a fast pace is important to ensure that you work as many muscles and burn as many calories as possible. Remember to stop every once in a while and take a deep breath, as even brisk walking on elevated and uneven surfaces can be exhausting. 

Things to Keep In Mind When Walking On a Trail Run

Focus on the steps you take per minute

Expert trail runners with years of expertise run at a high cadence. If you're new to trail running, counting your steps per minute is an excellent method to keep track of your progress. You may accomplish this by installing applications like StepsApp Pedometer or Walkster on your phone.

Moreover, if you have a Fitbit or an apple smart watch, these devices also include step counting features. By calculating your steps per minute daily, you can compare the statistics at the end of the month to see how far you've come.

You will see that your steps per minute will be substantially greater at the end of the month compared to the first week when you started trail running. A study suggests that 100 efforts per minute are considered brisk walking; therefore, if your step count per minute is lower, your goal should be to get to 100. 

Practice mindful walking

Mindful walking is crucial for trail runners. One of the key reasons for this is that being aware of your surroundings and every step you take allows you to prevent mishaps and injuries. Most trails are dangerous because they have uneven and rocky paths, and if you are not careful, you risk stumbling and suffering severe injuries.

Furthermore, mindful walking allows you to be aware of your surroundings and appreciate the scenery. When you practice mindful walking, you will notice how it improves your overall mental and physical health, and you will enjoy the trails even more.

Come prepared

It can be tough to walk on uneven paths, so trail runners use specific trail running shoes to comfortably walk across rough and harsh terrain while maintaining their balance. Therefore, before embarking on your trail running adventure, ensure that you are prepared and have the necessary equipment to navigate the path easily.

Incorporate other exercises into train walking

On days when you are in the mood to challenge yourself, I recommend incorporating other exercises into trail walking to increase the intensity and burn more calories. You can combine different moves throughout the trail, such as hopping, jogging, squatting, and skipping. It may seem challenging at first, but once you get used to it, you will begin to enjoy this routine and get the best adrenaline rush at the end of the trail run. 


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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